English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

IRELAND:  COLLIER.—­The most celebrated forgery of Shakspeare was that by Samuel Ireland, the son of a Shakspearean scholar, who was an engraver and dealer in curiosities.  He wrote two plays, called Vortigern and Henry the Second, which he said he had discovered; and he forged a deed with Shakspeare’s autograph.  By these he imposed upon his father and many others, but eventually confessed the forgery.

One word should be said concerning the Collier controversy.  John Payne Collier was a lawyer, born in 1789, and is known as the author of an excellent history of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakspeare and Annals of the Stage to the Restoration.  In the year 1849, he came into possession of a copy of the folio edition of Shakspeare, published in 1632, full of emendations, by an early owner of the volume.  In 1852 he published these, and at once great enthusiasm was excited, for and against the emendations:  many thought them of great value, while others even went so far as to accuse Mr. Collier of having made some of them himself.  The chief value of the work was that it led to new investigations, and has thus thrown additional light upon the works of Shakspeare.

CONCORDANCE.—­The student is referred to a very complete concordance of Shakspeare, by Mrs. Mary Cowden Clarke, the labor of many years, by which every line of Shakspeare may be found, and which is thus of incalculable utility to the Shakspearean scholar.


Ben Jonson, 1573-1637:  this great dramatist, who deserves a larger space, was born in London; his father became a Puritan preacher, but after his death, his mother’s second husband put the boy at brick-making.  His spirit revolted at this, and he ran away, and served as a soldier in the Low Countries.  On his return he killed Gabriel Spencer, a fellow-actor, in a duel, and was for some time imprisoned.  His first play was a comedy entitled Every Man in his Humour, acted in 1598.  This was succeeded, the next year, by Every Man out of his Humour.  He wrote a great number of both tragedies and comedies, among which the principal are Cynthia’s Revels, Sejanus, Volpone, Catiline’s Conspiracy, and The Alchemist.  In 1616, he received a pension from the crown of one hundred marks, which was increased by Charles I., in 1630, to one hundred pounds.  He was the friend of Shakspeare, and had many wit-encounters with him.  In these, Fuller compares Jonson to a great Spanish galleon, “built far higher in learning, solid and slow in performance,” and Shakspeare to an “English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention.”

Massinger, 1548-1640:  born at Salisbury.  Is said to have written thirty-eight plays, of which only eighteen remain.  The chief of these is the Virgin Martyr, in which he was assisted by Dekker.  The best of the others are The City Madam and A New Way to Pay Old Debts, The Fatal Dowry, The Unnatural Combat, and The Duke of Milan. A New Way to Pay Old Debts keeps its place upon the modern stage.

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